Current Projects



ECOFIRE – Fire ecosystem effects in the short- and medium-term: arthropods, mammals, plants and soils. Mediterranean resilience? (2023-2026)


Leaders: Xim Cerdá (EBD) and F.M. Azcárate (UAM)


Participants EBD: Elena Angulo, Fernando Amor, Ana Carvajal, Francisco Carro, Joaquín Cobos, Ramón C. Soriguer


Funding: MICIU / AEI / ERDF A way of making Europe




The project ECOFIRE focus on resilience of Mediterranean ecosystems after fire. We aimed to analyze the effects of both prescribed and non-prescribed forest fires on Mediterranean shrublands and pine forests, using plants, arthropods and mammals as study models, and considering at the same time the effects on the soil. Our main hypothesis is that Mediterranean ecosystems are resilients to fire, and fire increases plant diversity, generates small-scale spatial mosaics, and these mosaics may be dependent on the prior distribution and effects on the ground of certain engineer species (e.g. ant nests), which will play a key role in the response of the ecosystem as a whole. The project includes four general objectives: (1) to study the direct effects of prescribed fires and forest fires on soil properties and gas exchange, considering the interaction with ant nests of certain species; 2) to analyze the response of Mediterranean scrub vegetation to prescribed fires, both at a general level and in relation to the possible role played by ant nests in their regeneration; 3) to study the effects of prescribed fires and forest fires on the taxonomic and functional diversity of three groups of arthropods (ants, spiders, bees) located at different trophic levels and involved in particularly relevant ecosystem functions and services, and 4) to elucidate the response of certain groups of mammals (lagomorphs, small mammals, bats, carnivores and ungulates) to prescribed fires in Mediterranean shrublands, evaluating the usefulness of ants as surrogate bioindicators of this fauna.



Title: Fas@inAnt – Ecosystem effects of the invasive Argentine ant: fauna and soil (2022-2025)


Leader: Elena Angulo


Participants: At EBD-CSIC: Joaquin Cobos, Ramón Soriguer, Carmen Díaz-Paniagua; and Juli Broggi (MNCN, Spain), and Nuria Polo (UAM, Spain), Pablo Martín-Pinto (Univ Valladolid, Spain), Olivier Blight (Avignon Univ, IMBE, France), Aimee T. Classen (Univ Michigan, USA), Raúl Maneyro (Univ. de la Republica, Uruguay).


Funding: Junta de Andalucía (PROYEXCEL_00688)

Abstract: We focus explore the effects of invasive ants on the ecosystem. Following our previous work on the impact of the Argentine ant at different scales (individuals, populations, communities and ecosystem processes) we pursue two main goals: (1) to predict how below-ground processes such as litter decomposition and soil organisms, such as mycorrhizae or free-living soil fauna communities are being altered by this top- invader, and whether soil alterations by these ants affect other ecosystem functions, i.e., primary production; (2) to explore how the direct and indirect effects of the Argentine ant on amphibians and birds (described previously by our group) could translate to demographic consequences.


Title: Global invasion scenarios and future invasion risks (2019-2024)


Leader: Franck Courchamp


Participants: The InvaCost Consorcium, Elena Angulo, Christophe Diagne, Anna Turbelin, Liliana Ballesteros-Mejia, Boris Leroy, etc.


Funding: AXA Research Fund




Within this project the task was to search and construct a global database for the economic costs of invasive alien species, InvaCost, in order to forecast costs in future scenarios of the impact of biological invasions.


Regarding invasive alien ants, we described that the economic costs since 1930 for 12 invasive ant species in 27 countries, totalled US$ 51.93 billion, from which US$10.95 were incurred and US$ 40.98 were potential costs (expected or predicted costs). More than 80% were associated with only two species, Solenopsis invicta and Wasmannia auropunctata; and two countries, the USA and Australia. The Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, constituted the 4th costlies species after Anoplolepis gracilipes, with US$ 19.17 million of incurred costs.


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AGROECOseqC – AGROECOlogical strategies for an efficient functioning of plant - soil biota interactions to increase SOC sequestration (2021-2024).



Leader EBD: Joaquín Cobos


Participants EBD: Xim Cerdá, Elena Angulo, Ramón C. Soriguer


Funding: Horizon 2020 EJP SOIL


Abstract: Our specific objective is to analyse the role of arthropod epigeal fauna in different European experimental cereal crops with different agroecological practices (in Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Denmark).



Past Projects




Title: CILIFO – (Centro Ibérico para la Investigación y Lucha contra los Incendios Forestales), Iberian Centre for Research and Forest


Firefighting (2018-2022)


FIREPOCTEP – Strengthening cross-border systems for the prevention and extinction of forest fires (2021-2022)


Leader EBD: Xim Cerdá


Participants EBD: Joaquín Cobos, Ramón C. Soriguer, Elena Angulo


Funding: European Cross-Border Cooperation Program Interreg VA Spain- Portugal POCTEP


Abstract: Design and implementation of a cross-border (Spain-Portugal) program for research and innovation in the fight against wildfires. Our main role has been to develop easy and fast fauna monitoring standard protocols to assess the ecosystem recovery after fire.



Title: NatALIEN – Do native communities determine the success and impact of biological invasions? / ¿Determinan las comunidades nativas el éxito e impacto de las invasiones biológicas? (2014-2016)



Leader: Elena Angulo, Co-leader: Luis Santamaría


Participants: Elena Angulo (EBD-CSIC), Luis Santamaría (EBD-CSIC), Joaquín Reyes (UCO), Franck Courchamp (Univ. Paris-Sud, CNRS, France), Silvia Pérez-Espona (Anglia Ruskin Univ, UK), Sara Castro-Cobo (EBD-CSIC), Paloma Álvarez-Blanco (EBD-CSIC).


Funding: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (CGL2013-43660-P).


Abstract: We aimed to know the effect of native communities in the success and impacto f invasive alien species and specifically the importance of biotic resistance. We used to model species, the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) and the Pitiusas lezard (Podarcis pityusensis).


            Regarding the Argentine ant, we detected the importance of the supercolony in the success of its invasion in the Mediterranean sea: In the Pitiusas islands the main European supercolony expanded the most, while in Corsica, the Catalan supercolony dominated. We also showed how human presence and distance to already invaded sites are the main factors for the expansion of the Argentine ant in these islands. The Argentine ant did not always successfully dominate the invaded sites and this could last for >10 years. Within the Doñana Biological Reserve, the expansion of the Argentine ant is more related with the dispersion by scavenging avian predators, more than the native community ant richness, proportion of native dominant ants or community structure.


Photo: ©Maria Angulo


Pollen: The effect of anthropisatio on the diversity of bees and their effect on plant pollination

Leader: RB


Through their contribution to pollination, bees are key insects in natural and transformed ecosystems. In this project funded by the French Region Centre Val de Loire we aim at determining the influence of landscape variables on bee diversity and on the pollination service in three cities: Tours, Blois and Orleans.

Ant invasions: the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile
Leader: Elena Angulo
Participants: PAB, SC, XC, RB, AH, AL

Biological invasions are causing population declines and extinctions of native species worldwide, and have been nominated as the second most serious threat to global biodiversity after habitat loss. Ants are renowned to be among the most damaging invasive species, with the best-documented records of ecological damage. One of this species is the Argentine ant, which is successfully invading many areas in Europe, North and South America, Africa, Australia and Asia. We study the effects of the Argentine ant in the ecosystem. We use different approaches and try to test some of the hypothesis for the impact of biological invasions. Within this framework, Paloma Alvarez-Blanco studies the relationships between the Argentine ant and native predators, while Sara Castro studies the biotic resistance of the ant community.

Ant foraging at thermal limits: a comparative study in the Mediterranean basin

Leader: Xim Cerdá

Partcipants: RB, AH, AD


Hot deserts are amongst the harshest environments on Earth. Yet, they shelter a fragile fauna and flora that presents exceptional adaptations to tolerate extreme heat and dryness. Cataglyphis species have evolved in Palearctic deserts, where they are able to cope with ground temperature up to 70ºC. Our objective is to develop a comprehensive understanding of adaptations allowing these thermophilous animals to cope with hot desert conditions. This will be achieved by studying in a temperature gradient in the Mediterranean basin (Spain, Morocco, Greece and Israel): (1) the individual physiological adaptations to dryness and heat (cuticular hydrocarbons,
phenoloxydase activity); (2) the molecular adaptation to high temperatures (gene expression of the heat-shock proteins); and (3) the ecological benefit of thermophily within a local community framework (dominance, optimal foraging temperatures, thermal niche, functional diversity). This project brings together 4 Established Researchers from four different countries with complementary skills and expertise and that are working together for a long time. The added value of our collaboration comes from the synergy in task realization, the creation of common procedures and the production of mutualised datasets. Our ultimate goal is to build up an international scientific network that encompasses research on adaptation to arid environments.

Efecto del fuego sobre la diversidad de insectos claves (Hormigas y Abejas) en el monte andaluz: aspectos funcionales e implicaciones para la conservación

Leader: RB


Los incendios forestales son una fuente natural de perturbación que provocan grandes alteraciones en los ecosistemas. Sin embargo, desde los años 70 se ha detectado un aumento significativo en la frecuencia e intensidad de los incendios achacables a la despoblación rural y al aumento de los períodos de sequía provocados por el cambio climático. En el 2010, y sólo en Andalucía, se quemaron 942 ha de matorral y bosque, generando una gran preocupación en la sociedad.


            Aunque los efectos de los incendios sobre la estructura y dinámica de las comunidades vegetales han sido estudiados detalladamente, nos falta por conocer sus consecuencias sobre las comunidades animales. Las hormigas y las abejas realizan servicios muy importantes en los ecosistemas terrestres como la dispersión/depredación de semillas y la polinización. Muchas de sus especies anidan en el subsuelo, viéndose por ello poco afectadas por el aumento de temperatura en superficie que conlleva un incendio. Sin embargo, sí pueden verse afectadas, positiva o negativamente, por los cambios en la disponibilidad de recursos y en la estructura del hábitat ocasionados por el fuego. Se ha demostrado que, dependiendo del tipo de hábitat, la diversidad y/o la abundancia de abejas aumenta en los primeros años después de un fuego, probablemente debido al aumento de la floración de muchas plantas producido tras su paso. Por otro lado, los estudios que han analizado el efecto del fuego en las hormigas no siempre coinciden en sus resultados,,pareciendo haber una gran variabilidad de respuestas en función tanto del tipo de incendio como de las especies de hormigas implicadas en él. Hasta ahora, ningún estudio se ha interesado en los procesos por los que las especies de abejas y de hormigas se ven afectadas.


            En este proyecto, proponemos estudiar cómo los cambios generados por los incendios afectan a las abejas y a las hormigas, tanto a nivel de comunidad como de individuo (colonia) con el fin de elaborar un modelo predictivo que permita mejorar las actuaciones de conservación.


Los objetivos son los siguientes.


1)    Caracterizar la diversidad taxonómica y funcional de abejas y hormigas, en distintos estados de sucesión ecológica en el monte Andaluz, tras la acción de diversos tipos de incendios.


2)    Analizar los efectos indirectos del fuego sobre el comportamiento de forrajeo.


3)    Determinar si las especies ajustan su dieta a los recursos más abundantes después de un fuego.


4)    Determinar cómo cambian el reclutamiento y la estructura poblacional en diferentes etapas de la sucesión post incendio.


5)    Establecer la relación entre la conservación de abejas y hormigas y la regeneración de los ecosistemas forestales incendiados.


            Para ello realizaremos muestreos de abejas y hormigas en 40 incendios repartidos en el territorio andaluz con el fin de relacionar la diversidad funcional y taxonómica con las características del incendio. Además, analizaremos los cambios de comportamiento de forrajeo, por medio de observación directa en el caso de las hormigas, y por rastreo mediante radar armónico, en las abejas. La dieta de las hormigas se determinará por medio de observaciones directas y análisis de isótopos estables; la de las abejas, mediante determinación morfológica y molecular (bar-coding) del polen. Se analizará la estructura genética poblacional de 4 especies en zonas incendiadas recientes (hace 1, 5 años) y antiguas (más de 30 años). Finalmente, con los datos conseguidos en el campo y en el laboratorio, elaboraremos un modelo para predecir cómo afectan las características de los incendios, y de las medidas de gestión posteriores, a la regeneración de las comunidades de abejas y hormigas y, potencialmente, a la flora con la que interaccionan.


            El proyecto en sí lleva aparejado un fuerte componente de trabajo de campo, asociada al uso de múltiples  técnicas  (molecular, isótopos, GIS...), así como la necesidad de contratación de personal especializado para la realización de tareas claves.